Broussard Earns Mayo Clinic Comeback Player Of The Year Honors
GLENDALE, Ariz. — University of Colorado sophomore tailback Jarek Broussard was named one of three annual recipients of the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award, the tri-coordinators of the award announced Saturday morning.
The other two recipients for the 2020 honor were Kenneth Horsey, a sophomore offensive lineman for the University of Kentucky, and Silas Kelly, a senior linebacker at Coastal Carolina University. The three football student-athletes overcame injury and illness to excel on the field this season. They were selected by a vote of Associated Press college football writers and will be officially recognized during Saturday's PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl.
This is the third year of the award, created in 2018 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) in association with the Associated Press and the Fiesta Bowl Organization. Three annual winners are selected by a panel of writers, editors and sports information directors from CoSIDA, the AP and Touchdown Illustrated in recognizing college football student-athletes each season from all divisions of college football for overcoming injury or illness, by sharing their remarkable comeback stories. Student-athletes are nominated by their respective schools.
A member of CU's 2018 recruiting class, Broussard initially tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee in high school, but by the time he arrived on campus, he was still in the in the rehab progression; he thus redshirted that fall. Then in 2019, near the end of CU's August camp, he again tore the ACL in the same knee and subsequently had a second surgery and again missed the full season. He began a second rehabilitation immediately, and would spend the remainder of the fall, all of winter, and then the entire lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Boulder working with CU's sports medicine staff with his rehab.
After an injury sidelined Alex Fontenot, the returning starting tailback, Broussard moved from third on the depth chart into the top spot by the time CU opened its 2020 season against UCLA on Nov. 7. He would have a record-setting performance against the Bruins in CU's 48-42 win, rushing for the most yards (187) in the first game in a CU uniform, as well as for those for yards from scrimmage (208) and all-purpose yards (221). He was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for his performance, an honor he would earn four weeks later when he rambled for 301 yards in a 24-13 Buff win at Arizona, just the third 300-yard single game rushing performance in school history.
Also named the Pac-12 Conference's Offensive Player of the Year (by both the AP and the league coaches), he finished the regular season as the NCAA's second-leading rusher, averaging 162.6 yards per game; three-fourths of the way through the bowls, he's still third, with a 149.2 per game norm (895 yards in six games) after gaining 82 yards in the Alamo Bowl against Texas. He became just the fourth player in the NCAA since 1996 to open a career with four consecutive 100-yard rushing games, with Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson the last to do so in 2004.
"Winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award is a great honor, Broussard said. "I'd like to thank the Mayo Clinic, CoSIDA, the AP and Fiesta Bowl for making this award possible and honoring me with it.
"First and foremost, this is a team award," he continued. "I really need to recognize and thank the support I received from my coaches and teammates, especially my offensive line, and all the people in sports medicine who were with me throughout. They all believed in me. Even making a finalist for this prestigious award showed that all the hard work coming back from two knee surgeries was worth it, and winning it is truly special."
Broussard is CU's first major national postseason award winner since 2002, when Mark Mariscal won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter.
"I remember back in March, we weren't sure if he'd be ready by the fall; he wasn't ready to participate in spring practices had we been able to have them," Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell said. "So he was one of those guys that was just on the peripheral of our thoughts, and it was, 'We'll see if he's ready for camp, where he would be in our depth chart, things like that.'
"So for that scenario to happen back in March and how we ended camp, he was our best player in that position," Dorrell added. "He's come a long way, from where we weren't sure if he was going to be healthy enough to play to becoming the conference's player of the year, a first-team All-Pac-12 performer and now one of the three comeback players of the year. A truly great story of perseverance."
Broussard's position coach, Darian Hagan, echoed Dorrell's sentiments, and along the way gave the CU sophomore some very sound advice.
"I am so proud of Jarek, how far he's come after what he's been through," Hagan said. "It takes a lot out of you not only physically but mentally to comeback after one knee surgery, much less two. But he was all-in to do everything he needed to do in his rehabilitation and more, it proves good things can happen when perseverance prevails."
Hagan should know; he suffered a torn ACL in the '91 Orange Bowl but worked hard to return for his senior season that fall, not only in his third year as CU's starting quarterback, but also as the team's punt return to help his professional prospects.
He knew how much potential Broussard had when he recruited him out of Dallas' Bishop Lynch High School. That carried over to CU's preseason camp.
"Just watching him with the ball in his hands, we had nobody on our defense who could tackle him," Hagan said. "I knew that he had that special trait that you want as a running back. Then, unfortunately, he gets hurt again. I sat down with him and told him he needed to be all-in with his rehabilitation, and that he needed to make his injured leg bigger and stronger than his healthy one. He took it to heart and everyone can see the results."
"He has done an incredible job with his rehab and is truly a lesson in delayed gratification," said Andrew Hamstra, Colorado's head football trainer.
"Our goal is to help fans better appreciate the roads these student-athletes have traveled. says Doug Vance, executive director of CoSIDA. "We hope these stories of achievement can inspire other people to meet the challenges in their own lives."
Previous winners of the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award have been in 2018, Antwan Dixon (Kent State University), Seth Simmer (Dartmouth College) and Antonio Wimbush (Carson-Newman University); and in 2019, Jake Luton (Oregon State University); Drew Wilson (Georgia Southern University) and Octavion Wilson (Salisbury University).
More on the other award recipients:
Kenneth Horsey: The 6'-3" 300-lb sophomore offensive lineman from Sanford High School in Sanford, Fla. was rushed to the hospital in the spring of 2018 during his final semester of high school where doctors found a growth on one of his heart valves. He went through open-heart surgery in April and was told by doctors that his football career was over. He kept his commitment to the Wildcats, redshirting the 2018 season and playing sparingly in 2019 while continuing to recuperate. This season, 50-lbs lighter and in the best shape of his life, he earned the starting left guard spot Kentucky's "Big Blue Wall" starting eight games including today's Gator Bowl versus North Carolina State.
Silas Kelly: The 6'-4" 230-lb senior linebacker from South Carroll Senior High School in Mount Airy, Maryland broke his hand in the first game of the 2019 season and then tore his ACL in the season's second game against Kansas during the Chanticleers first-ever win over a Power 5 school. Following knee surgery, he worked hard to return to spring practice but was forced to have a second operation on his knee in early spring. He was back in the middle for Coastal Carolina to open the 2020 season against Kansas. The following week versus Campbell he recorded 8 tackles, and two sacks to earn Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week accolades. For the season he led Coastal Carolina with 80 tackles and added 6.5 TFL, 5 sacks and an interception.
About Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news and Mayo Clinic Facts for more information about Mayo.
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About the Fiesta Bowl Organization: Since 1971, the Fiesta Bowl is a world-class community organization that executes innovative experiences, drives economic growth and champions charitable causes, inspiring pride in all Arizonans during and outside of college football bowl season. As a nonprofit organization, it is driven by its vision for the importance of community outreach and service. Through the PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl, Guaranteed Rate Bowl and its year-round events, such as the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade, corporate partnerships and numerous community events throughout the year, the organization provides charitable giving to enhance Arizona nonprofit organizations that serve communities through youth, sports and education. On the web: FiestaBowl.org